How to Appeal an Unemployment Denial in Minnesota

If you've been denied benefits in Minnesota, you can file an appeal.

If your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied in Minnesota, you may think that you’re out of luck. But that’s not necessarily true. In Minnesota, as in all other states, you have the right to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits. If you file an appeal and win, you will receive all benefits to which you are entitled. This includes retroactive benefits: benefits from the date your unemployment application should have been accepted.

This article explains common reasons why unemployment claims are denied, how to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits, and how to persuasively argue your case. For more information on unemployment benefits in general, see our Collecting Unemployment Benefits page.

Why Unemployment Claims Are Denied

In Minnesota, you will receive a letter called a Determination of Ineligibility if your unemployment claim has been denied. This letter will list the specific reasons why your claim was denied and give you information on the appeals process.

Common reasons why unemployment claims are denied include:

  • Failing to meet the earnings requirements. In Minnesota, you must have earned a minimum amount in wages from employers who are covered by the state’s unemployment laws (most are), during a 12-month stretch called the “base period,” in order to qualify for benefits. Among other things, you must have earned at least $2,400 during the entire base period to qualify.
  • Quitting your last job. To collect unemployment, you must be out of work through no fault of your own. So if you quit your job voluntarily, without good cause, you won’t be eligible for benefits. However, if you left your job for compelling work or personal reasons (for example, to escape domestic violence or care for a seriously ill family member), you may still be eligible for benefits.
  • Getting fired for misconduct. In Minnesota, you are not eligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct. If you were simply a poor fit or lacked the skills to do your job well, you will likely still be eligible for benefits. But if you were fired for a serious violation of employment standards, you won’t qualify for benefits. Such disqualifying misconduct includes things like repeated absences without an excuse, coming to work intoxicated, or theft.
  • Refusing suitable work. To receive benefits, you must look for new work and accept a suitable job if you are offered one. (See Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Minnesota for more information on these eligibility requirements.)

It’s not always worthwhile to appeal a denial of unemployment benefits. For example, if you clearly don’t meet the earnings requirements, there’s no point in wasting your time on an appeal. If, however, it is a close call as to whether you were fired for misconduct, filing an appeal might be a good idea.

How to File an Appeal

The Determination of Ineligibility will explain how to file your appeal with the Appeals Office and provide the deadline for doing so. You can file your appeal in writing, by fax, or online, with the Appeals Office of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). For information on where to send or fax your appeal (and how to file online), see Instructions for Filing an Appeal at the DEED website.

When you file your appeal, make sure to briefly explain why you believe you should receive benefits. For example, if the Determination states that you were denied benefits because you voluntarily quit your last job, you might state, “I did not leave my last job voluntarily. I had to leave because of dangerous working conditions that my employer refused to correct.” Or, if the Determination states that you did not earn enough to qualify, you might say, “The Determination misstated my earnings from the first quarter of 2015, which should have been $5,000 rather than $500.”

Throughout the appeal process, you should file weekly claims for unemployment benefits, look for work, and keep records of your job search, just as you would if your application for benefits had been granted. This may seem like a waste of time, but it’s not. If you win your appeal, you will be entitled to benefits retroactively from the time your application should have been accepted – but only if you’ve been following the usual rules to receive benefits.

The Hearing

Once you file your appeal, the Appeals Office will schedule a telephone hearing. You’ll receive a written confirmation of the hearing date and time, along with an Appeal Hearing Guide that explains the process, in the mail.

An unemployment law judge will conduct the hearing. The judge will ask questions, review documents, and make a decision on your appeal. Your employer will also likely attend the hearing and may be represented by an attorney. You may hire an attorney to represent you, too.

You should be prepared to present all of the evidence showing that you should have received unemployment benefits. If there is a dispute over why you were fired, for example, you should submit documents showing that you were not fired for misconduct, such as a separation notice indicating you were being laid off for lack of work. You may also want to present witnesses who can support your side of the story, such as a coworker who was laid off at the same time and was given the same information as you. The hearing notice will explain how to get copies of your documents to the judge. You must also inform the judge ahead of time if you plan to present witnesses, need an interpreter, or will be represented by an attorney.

During the hearing, make sure you are ready on time, with your documents and any witnesses you want to present. Make sure to answer all of the judge’s questions thoughtfully and carefully. You have the right to question your employer’s witnesses, and your employer has the right to question you and your witnesses. Once all of the evidence has been heard, you will have a chance to make a closing argument. Make sure you state all of the reasons why you believe you are entitled to benefits.

The Decision

After the hearing, the judge will issue a written decision, stating whether you are entitled to receive benefits. You will get the decision in the mail. If you win your appeal, you don’t have to do anything further.

If you lose your appeal, you have 20 days to file a Request for Reconsideration. The judge's initial decision will explain how to file this Request. This Request essentially asks the judge to take another look at the case. Generally, the judge will not consider new evidence at this stage.

If the judge's reconsideration doesn't go your way, you may appeal your case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Next Steps

If you are considering an appeal, review the helpful information at the DEED page on filing an unemployment appeal in Minnesota. It includes deadlines, information on preparing for the hearing, links to forms, and more.

You may also want to consider hiring an attorney to help you with your appeal. Your employer may have an attorney at the hearing. If so, having a lawyer on your side will help even the odds. An attorney can question witnesses, help you decide what evidence would be most helpful, and present legal arguments about why you should have been awarded unemployment benefits.

However, you’ll have to consider whether the cost of hiring an attorney is worth what you might win in benefits. An attorney should be willing to meet with you for a quick consultation to review your case, explain your chances of winning the appeal, and talk about fees. If you have a strong case and the fees are reasonable, it might make sense to hire a lawyer to represent you.

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